February 2, 2003
Lewis Lowe, <i>Hullabaloo</i> Staff Writer
When the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) released its preseason womens tennis rankings, the number one doubles spot was held by two Tulane student athletes. Freshmen Jenny Kuhn and Julie Smekodub make up the best doubles team in the country according to the ITA. In addition to this accomplishment, the Wave is ranked 41st as a team in the poll, the highest ever in the program's history.
Smekodub is ranked 10th in singles and Kuhn is 101st. Senior Julie Morris also made it into the rankings at 124th. The rankings can be attributed to a strong fall season by the team as a whole. Smekodub went 19-3 and competed at the ITA Nationals after winning the Southwest Regional singles title. Smekodub and Kuhn won both the Regional and National doubles titles to gain the number one spot.
"During the semifinals at Regionals, Julie and Jenny realized that a spot for Nationals was on the line, and they kicked it up a few notches. They have been on a roll since then," women's head tennis Coach David Schumacher said.
According to Schumacher, the ladies still have a lot upon which to improve, which is almost scary considering their stellar performances thus far. Success is definitely a surprise for both coach and players.
"Early in the fall season, I though they would make a good number three doubles team after I saw how well they played together," Schumacher said.
Who knew that they would be in number one in the country? Both Smekodub and Kuhn are ecstatic about their high ranking, but success should not come as a shock to either one. Smekodub, from Brooklyn, N.Y., was ranked in the top five in the country as a junior, while Kuhn, from Leipzig, Germany, won the German Junior Nationals singles and doubles titles in 1999.
"Its pretty cool to be ranked number one. It's the first time I've ever been ranked that high," Kuhn said. Smekodub remarked, "It's unbelievable that we're number one. I really didn't expect it."
Smekodub also said Coach Schumacher did not even expect them to be in the starting lineup at the beginning of the year. The doubles pair could not be more humble. Each tends to give credit to the other and both note that their friendship and respect is important to their relationship on the court. Schumacher says that their relationship on the whole is the key to their success.
"Julie is just an awesome player. Her backstroke is killing everyone and she has a bomb for a serve," Kuhn said. "We get along so well and never get mad at each other on the court."
Likewise, Smekodub believes that Kuhn will be the reason they have a good chance to go far this year. "I think we will do well because of Jenny. She has great returns (of serve) and extreme confidence. She's good at everything that I'm not."
It is amazing how close they have grown to each other considering they did not know each other prior to attending Tulane. Schumacher recruited Kuhn at the German Nationals. Smekodub wanted to go to school in a city environment and really liked Coach Schumacher and the program.
The rest is history, although history is just now being made. Although they have a strong relationship off the court, that doesn't stop them from being competitive with each other on the court. In the first tournament of the year in Mobile, Ala., Kuhn defeated Smekodub for the title. If their success continues, it won't be the last time they meet in the finals of a tournament. All signs are pointing up for the women's tennis program at Tulane.
Last weekend, the Wave swept Southern and Southern Mississippi 6-1 each in their first regular season matches. Kuhn and Smekodub did not play doubles together and Smekodub did not compete in singles competition due to the number of matches played during the preseason. Kuhn won her matches at number one singles convincingly 6-0, 6-1 over Southern and 6-1, 6-0 over Southern Miss.
The biggest strength for the Green Wave this season is depth. Having three players ranked is a huge asset and the top four players on the team are virtually even with each other talent-wise. The next match is at home versus Florida State at the Goldring Tennis Complex Saturday Feb. 1 beginning at noon. Students are urged to come out and support the Green Wave and the number one doubles team in the country. There will be free hot dogs for fans and shirts will be given to those who attend five matches during the season.
"We have a good home schedule this year and we hope to get a lot of students out to support us." Schumacher said. "FSU will be tough competition and it should be a great match."
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